Tag Archives: Skills


The Friday Update 7: Using the cloud to disrupt the business in a secure manner

First up this week are a couple of articles I had published in The Sunday Times for a Raconteur supplement on cloud computing. The first article – on disruptive business models – highlights how the cloud has reached a tipping point, as buying IT on demand has moved to the core of technology provision with organisations using it to transform their operations.

The features quotes a range of independent experts and CxOs who are using the cloud as a platform for change. One of these individuals is Alex Hamilton, co-founder and chief executive of Radiant Law, an innovative and high-tech commercial contracts firm that uses the cloud to communicate and collaborate with staff and clients:

“We’re continually looking for better ways to serve the needs of our clients. The cloud provides the base layer that allows us to run our firm effectively, but it also allows us to experiment. The future of our business is tightly linked to the cloud.”

The supplement also included an article on the top five unusual for the cloud, from keeping animals fed and happy to bringing the written word to life. Independent publisher Faber & Faber is using cloud platform Box to manage incoming manuscripts from draft to final approval. Jim Lindsay, integration specialist at Faber & Faber, says the system is helping the firm embrace the digital world:

“Content is central to what we do and cloud computing makes content easily accessible for all staff, no matter where they are located in the world.”

Moving to the cloud involves a careful consideration of information security. Yet another article by me for ZDNet this week suggests most businesses are badly prepared when it comes to dealing with cyber attacks. Despite almost constant warnings about security threats, most companies rate their cyber resilience as low, even though they spend a huge chunk of their IT budgets on security.

Focusing on risk management is crucial, says Colin Lees at BT Business, whose main aim is to ensure potential points of entry are locked down. People policies are also important and he says BT has a range of plans and procedures for key areas, including building security, system access, and worker behaviour, in terms of education and training:

“The key to success is risk management, with an appropriate level of spend. You have to be prepared to invest. When I speak to other CIOs in other sectors, I sometimes find there’s less investment in security than at BT. Being so network-oriented means it’s a crucial area of IT spend for us.”

As mentioned in my last update, I’ll be writing more skills-based articles for The Register in coming weeks. My next article will focus on the role of the CDO. If you have an angle or an idea, drop me a line. I’m also always keen to hear from CIOs and independent experts who have an opinion or responsibility for areas of Europe beyond the UK. Just drop me a line if you’d like to get involved at mark.samuels@gmail.com or mark@samuelsmedia.co.uk.

IT skills crisis? How coding and cool can crack it

The IT skills crisis is less to do with the quantity of candidates and more to do with the quality of their skills. That was the conclusion of a recent TechRepublic CIO Jury analysis, which highlighted how IT leaders are concerned about the lack of young candidates with an aptitude for technology. So, how do you solve a problem like the IT skills crisis? Three experts offered their solutions to me for a TechRepublic feature:

Paul Coby, IT director at retail giant John Lewis, admits he is concerned by the IT skills gap. He is chair of the CIO board of advisory body e-skills UK and wonders whether the upcoming cadre of IT graduates will satisfy economic demand.

The UK has a proud technological heritage, from the pioneering intelligence work carried out at Bletchley Park, to the first business computer in Lyons Electronic Office and on to Sir Tim Berners Lee’s ground-breaking work on the World Wide Web. “IT is a UK success story but we really need to generate excitement about the future of technology,” says Coby.

That failing, recognises Coby, is a significant part of the problem. While the younger generation is eager to get their hands on smartphones and social-networking apps, they are not necessarily as interested in the software that underlies such technologies.

To read the rest of the feature, please click here.

Sainsbury’s IT chief: Why communication is key to IT success

Sainsbury’s head of IT Rob Fraser knows that if you talk data centres and servers, you’ll lose your audience. So he’s been focusing on communication and the business skills of his tech staff, as he explained to me in a feature for silicon.com:

Rob Fraser, head of IT and a member of the operating board at retail giant Sainsbury’s, has worked hard since his appointment in July 2009 to ensure the resources of the inhouse technology team match the key objectives of the business. Crucially, the core of his attempt to meet such aims is people rather than simply technology.

Fraser says former CIO Angela Morrison put a lot of effort into reintegrating inhouse staff, following a period of outsourcing with service provider Accenture at the start of the century. The engagement of the firm’s 500 inhouse IT staff remains a critical priority.

“Our IT team complete the upfront tasks that make sure business outcomes are met,” says Fraser. “We don’t want technologists. We want people with an understanding of how retail works. The strategy and planning will support our great IT people. We want the dynamic to continually evolve from push to pull, so the business can always come to us for great ideas on what to do next.”

To read the rest of the feature, please click here.